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A Cornucopia of Netbooks

By Jim Fisher

Happy birthday, netbooks! This holiday season, the once-foreign—and now-ubiquitous—miniaturized notebook computer turns two. When ASUS introduced the first Eee PC in 2007, the company envisioned the computer as a low-cost option for students. Upon the discovery that others were seeking out the low-cost, ultraportable computers, ASUS started developing the systems into something much more than the no-frills, 7" Linux-based Eee PC that was initially available.

Two years later, screens 10" or larger are the norm, along with large keyboards, multi-gesture trackpads, all-day battery life, and support for Windows 7, the latest and greatest operating system from the folks at Microsoft. Choosing the netbook for you is now a somewhat daunting task, thanks to the plethora of models available. Here, we'll highlight some of the systems on the market, hopefully helping you to choose a model that will address your netbook needs.

Most of the netbooks in this article use Windows 7 Starter Edition as the installed operating system. This bare-bones version of Windows is ideal for the low-power Intel Atom processors found in netbooks. The operating system lacks many of the multimedia features found in Windows 7 Home Premium. The 32-bit operating system does not support the Windows Aero graphics system, multiple monitors, fast user switching, desktop wallpaper changing, and Windows Media Center. While these limitations may seem extensive, they are largely due to the difficulty that a netbook would have powering said features. When making the decision to buy a netbook, you are trading some functionality for a low price point, extended battery life, and an ultracompact form factor.


ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-PU17 Seashell


The ASUS Eee PC is available in a variety of models. Available in Royal Blue, the 1005HA-PU17 Seashell is a 2.8 pound system with a 10.1" LED backlit widescreen display. The sleek system features the ASUS Seashell design, which is highlighted by sleek lines and curved edges. Even though it can operate for up to 10.5 hours on a single battery charge, the system does not feature the characteristic "battery bulge" that is often found on notebook computers with extended-life batteries.

It is powered by an Intel Atom CPU, and boasts 1GB of RAM. The multi-gesture trackpad supports 2-finger scrolling and zooming gestures, and the keyboard is 92% of full-size, for comfortable typing. The computer features 802.11n Wi-Fi, the fastest way to transfer data wirelessly, and uses Windows 7 Starter Edition as the operating system.

The computer features a 250GB hard drive for data storage. You'll also get access to an additional 500GB of online storage, perfect for backup and for storing large files for convenient access. Integrated Bluetooth supports wireless peripherals such as keyboards and mice, and the 0.3MP webcam is perfect for online video chat. The compact computer's impressive feature set is rounded out by a memory card reader, perfect for downloading photos and transferring files. ASUS provides an international warranty, giving you access to warranty service no matter where you are in the world.


Hewlett-Packard Mini 110-1125NR


HP's Mini 110-1125NR is a 10.1" netbook that weighs only 2.9 pounds. It uses the Windows 7 Starter Edition operating system, which is enhanced by the included HP Syncables software suite. Syncables keeps your contacts, photos, music, and files in sync between the netbook and your home PC. The netbook can operate for up to eight hours between battery charges.

The computer's display features a wide 16:9 aspect ratio, perfect for viewing videos. Because it is wider than traditional 16:10 notebook screens, you'll be able to have two windows open side-by-side, perfect for keeping a web page open and working on a document, without having to deal with overlapping windows. The screen's anti-glare finish helps to fight glare, allowing you to use the computer in a variety of lighting conditions.

The computer features a 160GB hard drive, an integrated webcam, and 802.11g Wi-Fi. The 5-in-1 memory card reader can download photos and videos from your digital camera. The computer features a 92% full-size keyboard for comfortable typing. The Mini is powered by an Intel Atom CPU with 1GB of RAM. The extensive software bundle includes trial editions of Norton Internet Security and LifeLock identity protection software. Microsoft Works 9.0 is installed for productivity, along with a trial edition of Microsoft Office.


Toshiba mini NB205-330


The Toshiba mini NB205-330 is available in Frost White, and Posh Pink. Powered by an Intel Atom CPU with 1GB of RAM and loaded with Windows 7 Starter Edition, the computer features a 10.1" widescreen display with a LED backlight.

Capable of operating for up to 9 hours per battery charge, the system features a full-size chiclet-style keyboard and touchpad for enhanced ergonomic comfort. This is all housed in a compact chassis that weighs only 3 pounds, and is only 1" thin when closed.

The computer features a spacious 250GB hard drive, as well as a Secure Digital memory card reader. You'll be able to get online, thanks to 802.11g Wi-Fi, and the Bluetooth 2.1+EDR module can communicate with wireless keyboards, mice, and headphones. An integrated webcam makes it easy to participate in online video chat. The computer's extensive software bundle is highlighted by trial versions of Norton Internet Security and Microsoft Office.


Acer Aspire One AOD250


The Acer Aspire One is available in a variety of configurations and colors. We're going to take a look at one of the configurations, which is available in five striking colors, two of which we currently have in stock: Ruby Red and Seashell White. The AOD250 is the lone system in this round-up to use Windows XP Home as its operating system. Perfect for users who don't require all-day computing, the 2.4-pound system can operate for about 3 hours per battery charge. It features a 10.1" widescreen display with a LED backlight and a comfortable keyboard. The multi-gesture touchpad supports circular motion scrolling, pinch-action zoom, and page flip.

It uses an Intel Atom processor with 1GB of RAM, and features a 160GB hard drive for data storage. The computer will get you online using 802.11g Wi-Fi, and the integrated Acer CrystalEye webcam lets you video chat with ease. The computer features a memory card reader that supports Secure Digital Memory Stick, and xD card formats. Trial versions of the McAfee Internet Security Suite and Microsoft Office are included with the system.


Sony VAIO W VPCW121AX


The VAIO W is Sony's first foray into the netbook market. The impressively-designed system is available in three colors: Berry Pink, Sugar White, and Cocoa Brown. The stylish computer is highlighted by a 720p 16:9 widescreen display with LED backlight. The chiclet-style keyboard and large touchpad are a joy to use. The computer, which uses the Windows 7 Starter operating system, weighs a scant 3 pounds. It can operate for up to 7 hours on battery, perfect for all-day computing.

Integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi lets you get online at the fastest possible speeds, and the computer's Bluetooth 2.1+EDR module can communicate with wireless mice, speakers, keyboards, and headphones. The system features a spacious 250GB hard drive, an Intel Atom CPU, and 1GB of RAM. You'll be able to download pictures from Memory Stick and Secure Digital cards, thanks to the integrated card reader.

The VAIO W includes the VAIO Media plus software suite, which lets you play media stored on your computer throughout your home network. You'll be able to stream videos, music, and pictures to a PlayStation 3 or any other DLNA-certified device—wirelessly. Trial versions of Norton Internet Security and Microsoft Office are included, as well as the full version of Microsoft Works.

And the Rest...

Anyone who is searching for a netbook will be presented with a wealth of choices. While we've highlighted some very good computers in this round-up, you may find that they are not exactly what you're looking for. Fear not, B&H offers an extensive selection of netbooks, which you can browse through in our online store. You can use the filters on the left of the screen to refine your choices by color, operating system, and more.


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